War in Ukraine: First anniversary of the Russian invasion

On February 24, 2022, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine began. The Hannah Arendt Initiative network supports media at risk and media professionals, including those from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has abruptly changed the lives of millions of people. Countless civilians and soldiers have been killed over the past twelve months. 18.7 million Ukrainians have left their country since February 2022, according to UNHCR, and some have since returned. According to Reporters Without Borders, eight media workers have been killed so far while doing their jobs in Ukraine. 

The war is changing the media landscape 

The media landscape has been altered since the war began. Media houses in Ukraine have been targeted and destroyed by Russian troops, editorial offices raided, and journalists violently threatened and pressured. In many regions, the power supply and digital infrastructure has been destroyed, making it difficult to report from the ground. 

The war has also left its mark on the Russian media landscape: Even before the war began, international media outlets such as Deutsche Welle were blocked or expelled. In the meantime, the Kremlin has declared numerous journalists and entire media houses that report critically on the war to be „foreign agents,“ and the term „war“ is banned in reporting. Independent editorial offices have been closed, censorship on the internet is on the rise. Digital threats and the use of spy software are increasing.  

Many media professionals and their editorial offices thus have no choice but to go into exile in order to continue their work. They then must report abroad to continue to provide Russian-speaking people with access to independent information about the war.  

In exile, both media houses and journalists face numerous challenges: They need residence permits and licenses, they must find and hire new staff, they need technical equipment and they must maintain contact with their sources or establish new ones. Many journalists have also experienced trauma and require psychological support. They also lack a steady income, professional prospects and future security for themselves and their families.  

The Hannah Arendt Initiative network 

In the summer of 2022, the Hannah Arendt Initiative was launched by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The goal of the initiative is to build a network of civil society organizations that work together to protect and support media professionals from war and crisis zones who are under threat. 

Strengthening journalistic voices in exile 

Through various projects, the partner organizations of the Hannah Arendt Initiative support media and journalists from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus who are under threat due to the war in Ukraine. The support includes, among other things, the provision of emergency scholarships, technical and financial assistance, trainings and consultations.  

Examples of project work: 

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) has provided 159 five-month emergency grants to Ukrainian media professionals as part of its Voices of Ukraine project. 40 media outlets and two female freelance journalists received technical assistance while 13 Ukrainian female journalists are currently participating in a journalist-in-residence program in Kosovo. In addition, over 60 media professionals participated in four digital training sessions on disinformation and fake news, resilience and digital security. 230 participants attended the conference „Re:Cover: How Russia’s war in Ukraine changes Journalism“ in December in Bratislava. 

The DW Akademie, also a network partner of the Hannah Arendt Initiative, has so far awarded 31 scholarships to Russian and Belarusian journalists through its Space for Freedom project, while 24 Belarusian journalists took part in training sessions. DW Akademie also advised 27 Russian journalists on their relocation to exile and further professional development. Three Belarusian media outlets received advice on digital security, audience development and organizational development.  

Other organizations in the Hannah Arendt Initiative network currently implementing projects in the pilot phase are the European Fund for Journalism in Exile (JX Fund) and MiCT – Media in Cooperation and Transition.